John Frum A Stirring in the Noos
It’s a band, not a person. And that’s not the only unexpected thing here.
John Frum’s debut full-length, A Stirring in the Noos, offers a new voice to the ever-growing technical death metal melee with thick, twisting compositions rife with the double bass onslaught and complex cymbal textures common to the genre. Intermittent synth and spacious interludes set this release apart from the chugging groove metal that’s so common of late. A Philadelphia native with music degrees from both Temple University and the University of the Arts, drummer ELI LITWIN ably leads bandmates Matt Hollenberg (guitar, John Zorn, Cleric), Derek Rydquist (vocals, ex–the Faceless), and Liam Wilson (bass, Dillinger Escape Plan, Starkweather) through the album’s eight dense tracks. Litwin’s creative use of space and unexpected snare drum double strokes on the grinding “Memory Palace,” blast-beat punishment on opener “Presage of Emptiness,” and fluid navigation of endless serpentine groupings on “He Come” stand out. (Relapse) Ben Meyer
Tabah Symmetry Somewhere
MURPHY JANSSEN breathes new life into American indie rock on this Minneapolis-based group’s full-length debut.
It’s not easy being a rock drummer these days. There’s a compelling argument to be made that every bit of rhythmic territory the genre has to offer has been effectively mined by now. But just when this claim becomes most tempting to make, a record like Tabah’s Symmetry Somewhere comes along. The quintet—and particularly drummer Murphy Janssen—manages to forge a unique identity. By blending Afro-Cuban rhythms with ’70s dance aesthetics, Janssen is able to hone a formally inventive approach to the drumkit, one that often bypasses time-honored rock grooves in favor of freewheeling syncopated patterns that mutate every few bars. The end result is that Tabah’s rhythmic left turns and 1990s Alternative Nation–style melodies always find a soft place to land. (tabahmpls.com) Keaton Lamle
Between the Buried and Me Coma Ecliptic: Live
Nova Collective The Further Side
A pair of new releases from the expanding BTBAM universe should raise your antenna.
North Carolina prog darlings Between the Buried and Me, who’ve been defying neat genre labels for over fifteen years now, recently released a double-disc set that contains their third live album and second live DVD. Documenting a complete live performance of the 2015 concept album Coma Ecliptic, the CD and DVD feature audio and video from a single show at the Observatory North Park in San Diego in October of 2016. Mixed by longtime collaborator Jamie King of the Basement Recording NC, Coma Ecliptic: Live features eleven tracks of the band at its tour-hardened zenith, deep into the album cycle for Coma Ecliptic. Drummer BLAKE RICHARDSON’s precise, powerful playing comes across beautifully throughout.
Also available on Metal Blade Records is the debut album from Nova Collective, a new quartet featuring BTBAM bassist Dan Briggs along with members of Trioscapes, Haken, and Cynic. The Further Side, the band’s first recorded output, will feel familiar to fans of Trioscapes, a collaboration also including Briggs and Nova Collective drummer MATT LYNCH. Lynch’s playing on The Further Side is slick, breathless, razor’s-edge precise, and once again artfully recorded by Jamie King. Exotic keyboard textures from Pete Jones (ex-Haken) and probing, intellectual guitar playing by Richard Henshall (Haken) help this inspired record offer something we haven’t quite heard before in the ever-expanding world of instrumental music. (Metal Blade) Ben Meyer
Taking the Reins
Vinnie Sperrazza Juxtaposition
The drummer/leader displays a thoughtful, dynamic voice both on the kit and within the classic jazz quartet.
There are many jazz quartets with sax, piano, bass, and drums, yet it’s the way individual personalities converge that makes each group special. Vinnie Sperrazza’s latest release finds Chris Speed’s searching sax lines playing among Bruce Barth’s gorgeous piano chords, while Peter Brendler’s bass throbs beneath. Yet the character of the group really relies on Sperrazza’s contributions, which feature floating polyrhythmic cymbal patterns, crisp and dynamic snare accents, and a supportive drive. “House on Hoxie Road,” for instance, displays all these traits. At times Sperrazza’s playing is subtle, while at other times he locks in with Brendler for a solid swinging groove, as on “Alter Ego.” While the songs vary from meditative to swinging, Sperrazza is never bombastic. Instead, his excellent technique, control, dynamics, and rhythmic sense (check out “One Hour”) combine with his sense of color and space to support the group. Overall, as both composer and drummer, Sperrazza has an approach that rewards further listening. (Positone) Martin Patmos
Gustavo Cortiñas Snapshot Esse
An emerging drummer to watch combines his passions for music and philosophy.
Rhythm freaks may salivate over the complexities here, including polyrhythms of five against four and three, left-foot clave in five, and a ballad in 15/8. But that’s not the point. The selections on Esse (“the act of being”) are inspired by the work of key Western philosophers, and Gustavo Cortiñas’ music successfully conveys the spirituality of those topics. In addition, Cortiñas is, foremost, a highly musical and grooving drummer as well as a laudable composer. A bonus: The music is surprisingly danceable.
Cortiñas, who was raised in Mexico, is currently active on the Chicago jazz scene. On his second disc, he leads his septet, Snapshot, through engaging numbers mixing elements from jazz and multiple Latin cultures, including folkloric styles from his homeland, such as Huapango. Check out the thrilling groove-shifter “Arête,” where Cortiñas gets some blazing feature space, delivering high-energy precision soloing framed by vivid ideas. A joyful meeting of mind and spirit. (OA2) Greg David
DeLong Way to Musical Phrasing on the Drumset by Paul DeLong
A new method book promises that you can increase technique and musicality when you focus on how the building blocks fit together.
The term phrase, defined as words forming a conceptual unit, is similarly defined in music as notes grouped together. Likewise, phrasing refers to how something is played, similar to how something is spoken. Exploring the core performance concepts of phrases and phrasing, Paul DeLong’s newest book challenges drummers to develop their musicality. Part of the secret lies in avoiding a nonstop barrage of notes. Yet techniques like grouping notes into rhythmic patterns, repetition, shaping, and letting the music breathe are some of the real tricks.
DeLong opens with a wealth of transcriptions that demonstrate musical phrasing as played by numerous jazz and rock greats—Tony Williams, Vinnie Colaiuta, Ian Paice, and so forth. Then DeLong offers examples of three-, five-, and seven-beat phrases by other popular drummers, demonstrating how they can create musical patterns across 4/4 barlines. After solidifying these concepts, the book wraps up by looking at combinations, odd-time phrasing, and working around ensemble figures.
By drawing on examples from real recordings, DeLong offers a variety of stylistic challenges grounded in genre practice. Looking at how phrasing has been used by famous drummers really strengthens the book’s appeal—brief transcriptions of Bill Stewart, Steve Gadd, John Bonham, and many others are used throughout to explain the ideas at hand. Further, viewing these drummers in context adds awareness to what makes them great. As a bonus, all the transcriptions have been recorded by DeLong and are available as downloads. Playing through this book, you will definitely walk away with a deeper knowledge of drumset phrasing, and likely some improved chops as well. ($24.95, pauldelong.com) Martin Patmos
Drum Trek: The Final Frontier of Rock
by Joel Rothman
Explore the bond between hi-hat and snare with this linear-groove starter kit.
If you’re interested in learning how to execute Tower of Power or other linear patterns, but transcribing the parts is proving challenging, then this book is your ticket. Drum Trek is almost exclusively made up of linear patterns for just snare and hi-hat, so all you’ll need to focus on is making sense of two staff lines. Author Joel Rothman starts things off easy enough with simple 8th-note exercises in 4/4 time but eventually moves into more complex odd-time passages (very tricky) and chapters with titles like “Linear Patterns for Four Bars With Two Consecutive Quintuplets in the Fourth Bar,” so don’t get too comfortable too quickly. Your paradiddle-diddles should also be together. And of course, before you go and try to tackle that sick pattern in TOP’s “Oakland Stroke,” you’ll have to grapple with the elephant in the room—adding the bass drum. For that, at the moment, you’re on your own. ($19.95, J.R. Publications) Ilya Stemkovsky